Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Coffee, Cakes, and Ceramics

Essen isn't all about mines and heavy industry (though the Krupps family have played an important part in its history for hundreds of years). It also has street markets the equal to some of my favorite in France, cute boutiques and coffee shops, and at least one bakery that would stand out in even the most cosmopolitan of cities.

We Saturday shop in Prague, visiting local stores to pick up staples and surcees for the week ahead. It's one of my favorite times of the week and about the only reason I can imagine waking up early on a weekend morning. So when Manuel and Isa, the friends we stayed with in Essen, invited us to join them on their Saturday stroll we jumped at the chance. We visited Essen's farmers' market, stopped off at a bio grocery, and took a break for coffee before sending the strollers with their bags of flowers, cheese, sausage, vegetables and a chicken or two home with the babies and a contingency of grownups to carry the bags up the stairs.

Then C, Manuel and I headed to Manuel's favorite bakery, Criolla. A bakery run by a Colombian couple, it offers cakes, meringues, pies, caramels and even homemade marshmellows. But not the vanilla flavored marshmellows you might be thinking of. These marshmellows were meltingly delicate passion-fruit flavored morsels of goodness. If you've ever imagined the Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that is exactly what they taste like. We also acquired two cake quarters for after lunch coffee and they turned out to be the moistest, most lemony cakes I've yet to eat. But the crowning glory of our taste test were the chocolate meringues. Chewy insides with outsides that melt in your mouth, they were so good, Will declared them the Best Ever Meringues and I had to agree. If you happen to be in Essen, I say, hie thee to the bakery, you will not be disappointed.

After lunch we took a tram-metro* to the mines of yesterday. There we visited a pottery studio housed in one of the old buildings of the mine. The Keramische Werkstatt Margaretenhöhe had an open house exhibition of their pottery, and we were lucky enough to be invited along to see the workshop and wares. We toured the studio (big enough for five potters and the many pots, plates and bowls they prepare before glazing, small enough to charm the children with its boathouse feel and bamboo garden) and ate more cake and coffee before heading home for the evening. It was a very cozy day, as Caroline said.

*We rode underground and above ground in it, and it looked like a tram, so I gave it the clunky title of a tram-metro. Perhaps someone else can tell me what these cool cars are called?

5 comments:

Ellen said...

Those marshmallows sound as if they much more deserve the title Delight then the real thing. I could never understand Edmund after once partaking in a Turkish market...

Julia said...

I know, real turkish delight is just awful. But this is exactly what I imagined before.

Barrett Bonden said...

So the reality matches the charming name. Thanks.

Barrett Bonden said...

Tram-metro. There's a great one in Hanover but the phrase is a puzzlement. In some cases (Wolverhampton, UK, for instance) there's a comma rather than a dash suggesting that trams are quite separate from metro systems. Hereford, alas, has huge trailers pulled by even huger tractors as tons of swedes are mysteriously transported round the city. I suspect you can ride for free on top of the swedes.

Lucy said...

What a delicious post!